Robert Whittaker is still on the hunt for Israel Adesanya.
The middleweight title rematch between "The Reaper" and Adesanya took place at UFC 271 in February of this year. However, "The Reaper" made a strong comeback by defeating top challenger Marvin Vettori by unanimous decision at UFC Paris. Whittaker, who is ranked No. 2 at 185 pounds in the MMA Fighting Global Rankings, has won 13 of his last 15 fights. His only defeats in that time have come at the hands of "The Last Stylebender."
Whittaker made it obvious that he still wants to win the UFC championship after successfully retaining his No. 1 contender position.
“I’m hunting that title shot,” Whittaker said on a recent episode of The MMA Hour. “That’s what I’m doing and that’s what I’m always going to be doing because that’s the only up direction. I’m a fiend for progress, I just want to move forward.
“I want to move up. And whoever’s got that ‘C’ above me, whoever is above me in the ranking is my next target, obviously.”
Given his two defeats to Adesanya, Whittaker's declaration that he was "the most dangerous man" in the middleweight class during his UFC Paris post-fight address drew questions. He said on The MMA Hour that he frequently does his adversaries more harm than Adesanya does, which was an especially incisive statement given the criticism Adesanya has recently faced for championship defences that have been largely drama-free.
“I’m the most dangerous man in the division,” Whittaker said. “Izzy, he’s the champion of the division, he beat me the last fight as well. He’s a great fighter. But I’m the most dangerous man. I can beat anyone in the division. That last fight against Israel I got within a hair’s breadth of taking everything away from him. Just the fights that I’ve been in and the opponents that I’ve had, I’m not just beating them. I’m flogging them. There’s a difference in that."
“I’m hurting these guys and that’s what makes me so dangerous. It’s because I don’t just come to the fight to win, I come to break my opponents. And I’m not a big talker or anything, but mentality-wise, that’s what I do when I go in there. I don’t go in there expecting to leave there. … That’s why a lot of the injuries I have when I leave the octagon, it’s because I’ve done them to myself. Throwing too many kicks or throwing too many punches with reckless abandon, it’s just how it is.”
Whittaker attributes the change in view of Adesanya more to the opponents that the champion has faced than to any adjustments in approach.
“Israel’s fighting the exact same way he has always fought,” Whittaker said. “He’s a picture-perfect defensive striker that uses his physical attributes perfectly with the way he fights. The only difference now is that he’s fighting much higher quality guys and they’re harder to stop, harder to go away, a bit tougher. He’s always fought that way. He’s always fought defensively, safe. And he gets the W. I guess that’s what you want.”
Whittaker began his UFC career at 170 pounds and has hinted at moving up another weight class. He feels that if he ever moves up to compete at 205 pounds, that is the division he will eventually retire in. He is currently anticipating Adesanya's subsequent championship defence against Alex Pereira at UFC 281, which will happen on Nov. 12.
Whittaker is certain that, regardless of the outcome, he will continue to be mentioned as a top contender for the championship.
“I know that I have one more shot against Izzy if that’s what it is or if he gets dethroned I definitely have another shot at gold,” Whittaker said. “I think getting that third fight with Israel will be a deciding point for that or whoever else it is.”
“Definitely [there will be a third fight with Adesanya,]” he added. “It would be silly not to because I’m just running through everybody else. Especially the way the second fight left off, I’d have to have come the closest since he’s gotten the title to taking it back off him.”